'Potential explosive devices' sent to Obama, Clinton homes; CNN building evacuated
Suspicious packages addressed to top Democrats and CNN’s New York headquarters were recovered by law enforcement officials in multiple locations on Wednesday.
The U.S. Secret Service said it had intercepted two suspicious packages addressed to former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
A third suspicious package found in the mailroom of the Time Warner Center in New York City forced the evacuation of the building, which houses CNN’s New York bureau.
The package addressed to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., was recovered late Tuesday, the Secret Service said in a statement to Yahoo News. A second package addressed to Obama was intercepted by Secret Service personnel in Washington, D.C., early Wednesday. The Secret Service screens all mail addressed to those it protects; the Clintons and Obamas have had a Secret Service detail since serving in the White House.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the statement read. “The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
Hillary Clinton, who is in Florida campaigning for Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala, was not home at the time.
“We are fine, thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home,” Clinton said before a rally for Shalala on Wednesday. “Every day we are grateful for their service and commitment and obviously never more than today.”
The Secret Service said it has “initiated a full scope criminal investigation” to “determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
Thank you to the @SecretService and all law enforcement agencies who responded to this week's incidents. They work tirelessly to keep our country and communities safe. I am forever grateful for their efforts.
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) October 24, 2018
The discovery of the three packages comes just two days after a pipe bomb was found in the Bedford, N.Y., mailbox of billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros, like the Clintons, lives in New York’s Westchester County. According to the New York Times, the device sent to the Clintons was similar to the one sent to Soros, a liberal donor who has long been the target of conservative conspiracies.
Officials told ABC News that the devices found in packages addressed to Soros, Clinton and Obama “appear to be of similar pipe bomb-style construction.”
NBC News reported that the return address on the suspicious packages sent to Soros, Clinton and Obama belonged to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., a former Democratic National Committee official. Wasserman-Schultz’s offices in Sunrise, Fla., were evacuated Wednesday after a suspicious package was found mailed there, local police said.
According to CNN, the package that triggered the evacuations there was intended for former Attorney General Eric Holder but included the wrong address, so it was returned to Wasserman-Schultz’s offices.
Meanwhile, multiple news organizations reported that a suspicious package addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was intercepted Wednesday at a congressional mail facility.
Waters, a frequent target of President Trump during his stump speeches across the country, released a statement Wednesday afternoon about the incident.
“I have been informed by U.S. Capitol Police that my Washington, D.C., office was the target of a suspicious package that has been referred to the FBI,” Waters said. “I am appreciative of the law enforcement entities who intercepted the package and are investigating this matter. I unequivocally condemn any and all acts of violence and terror.”
Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for New Castle Police Department said its officers assisted Secret Service and the FBI’s New York field office after the package addressed to Clinton was discovered.
In a statement, the FBI said its Joint Terrorism Task Force was taking the lead in the investigation.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement condemning the “attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures.”
“These terrorizing acts are despicable,” she added. “And anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.”
Vice President Mike Pence also condemned the “attempted attacks” in a tweet. President Trump retweeted Pence, adding: “I agree wholeheartedly!”
I agree wholeheartedly! https://t.co/ndzu0A30vU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
At a previously scheduled event at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, Trump issued a longer statement condemning the attempted attacks.
“The safety of the American people is my highest and absolute priority,” he said. “In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together, and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”
Shortly after 10 a.m. ET, the Time Warner Center was evacuated after a suspicious package was discovered in the mailroom. An alarm in the building went off as CNN hosts Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto were live on the air.
They continued reporting from their cell phones after they were evacuated.
Here's the moment CNN had to handoff to DC and evacuate Time Warner Center in New York pic.twitter.com/TUtnWrss9z
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) October 24, 2018
The NYPD cordoned off several blocks around Columbus Circle, where the Time Warner Center is located. The device was removed by the city’s bomb squad and taken to a location in the Bronx, where it could be safely detonated.
The package was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan, who has appeared on CNN, is an MSNBC contributor.
At a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the device sent to CNN “appeared to be live.”
Photos of the bomb and package sent to CNN pic.twitter.com/nBq3ArtChJ
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) October 24, 2018
O’Neill said the package also contained a white powder, which is being analyzed.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially said a similar device had been sent to his offices in Manhattan, but his spokesman later tweeted that “a preliminary investigation on the package at @NYGovCuomo’s office shows it is computer files on the hate group, The Proud Boys, who recently appeared in New York.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the mailing of the suspected explosive devices was “an effort to terrorize.”
“This is clearly an act of terror,” de Blasio said, “attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence.”
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